This weekend marks 35 years since Rebekah knelt at the front of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, where a great cloud of witnesses laid hands on her, and prayed that God would do some amazing things through her calling. When she rose to her feet she was an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5
Sunday morning is probably my favorite time of the week, because I get to be with the more than 400 wonderful people who will gather at WFPC for worship. We will sing God’s praise, pray together, learn more about faith, laugh a lot, possibly cry, enjoy fellowship with one another, and then reach out into the world with love, grace, hope, and promise.
It’s always a good time, and the morning is rich with enthusiasm and dynamic life. Going to church should be the kind of experience that demonstrates the reality and the power of God among us. Here at WFPC, life, light, enthusiasm, and belief are never in doubt.
I think it’s because – and building a little on yesterday’s post – we anticipate and experience our gathering together as a celebration. We celebrate the undeniable, liberating, affirming, life-giving fact of God’s amazing love for us.
Naive or believe?
When Rebekah stands in the pulpit and talks about faith, it’s obvious not only that she is alive in Jesus, but that such transformational love from God is something available to all of us. Rebekah flat out believes, and belief like that is contagious. Over these 35 years, she has often been called “naïve” by other – more cynical – preachers. However, after thirty-five years of enthusiastic ministry, she insists that naïveté cannot explain it – it has to be belief and it has to be God.
Her witness reminds me of a great story I like to share when I’m leading retreats or speaking at conferences. I honestly don’t know where I first heard it, but it rings true on every level.
The scene is London, circa 1920. It’s a Sunday morning. A man steps onto the sidewalk from his hotel to witness a large number of people walking toward a church. Among them, he recognizes Bertrand Russell, a very public atheist. The man stops Russell and exclaims, “I did not think you accepted this message?” “I do not,” Russell replies, “but the man who is speaking believes with such conviction that I cannot stay away! I am compelled to listen!”
Belief that rings with authenticity is hard to resist. That’s what I feel when I step into the sanctuary or the CLC for worship at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. There’s nothing showy about it, nothing formulaic, nothing super-religious, and nothing that judges those who doubt.
But the people in the pews, the musicians and the singers who lead worship, the ushers and the greeters, all those noisy children running around all over the place (and that woman who is speaking!). They believe! They believe with such authenticity and conviction.
So don’t miss out. There’s absolutely got to be something going on around here! Good news like this simply has to be shared!
In love, and because of love – DEREK
The first words I heard Rev. Mail speak as the new moderator of Tampa Bay Presbytery were “It’s all about Jesus”. Her life has certainly borne that out.